The Cincinnati Bearcats kick off the 2012-2013 season with an exhibition game against Grand Valley State on Monday night, and Mick Cronin's team is ready to get to work against someone not wearing Red and Black in practice.
That should be no surprise with two plus weeks of practice in the books in addition to work outs throughout the summer and fall. Cronin has 13 guys ready to get the action started, and they will finally get that chance Monday at 7 pm inside 5/3 Arena.
“What happens with every team right now is you get to a point where you want to play against another team, “ Cronin said Thursday afternoon to the local media. “You get to a point where you have to be careful as a coach because in training camp, you’re trying to get everything in. You’re trying to make sure guys are practicing hard, going hard. You need to get to a point where you find a happy median with that. But you have to play (against) somebody else.”
“I think we are so anxious,” said Wright. “We have been playing against each other since the summer time. It’s kind of getting old playing against the same people, seeing the same stuff every day. It’s kind of an anxious moment even though it’s my last one.”
Parker, who has gone from backup point guard to power forward to finally his natural position on the wing, echoed Wright's sentiment on being ready to put their hard work to the test against an actual opponent.
“We are just ready to play somebody else,” Parker said. “We’re getting tired of beating up on each other the whole time (in practice), so we are just ready to play somebody else right now.”
With a new season comes a new challenge, and for this group there is a full time change in style of play being implemented.
With the graduation of Yancy Gates after four strong years in the program, the emphasis is now on playing fast, and being a team that puts pressure on the opposing offense for 40 minutes a night. Cronin outlined the three core values of the program going in to a campaign with very high expectations for everyone involved.
“Well for us, there are certain areas that are important to us,” said Cronin. “The main thing is defense. Don’t turn the ball over. Know what you’re supposed to do on every play. Make sure you’re in the right spot. Those are our three things. That’s our criteria for playing time.”
It should be no surprise that even though there is more offensive firepower expected from a group that goes at least 10 deep with guys that can put points on the board it will be defense that sits at the top of the list for their head coach.
As Cronin enters his 7th year at the helm of his hometown school the focus is on applying constant pressure with a long and athletic group that will try to make it as tough as possible for opposing offenses to last 40 minutes.
“There are details for the way we play defense,” Cronin said. “For instance, a big part of what we do is trying to get 40 deflections every game and wear our opponent out. But, you’re not going to wear the opponent out, unless you’re putting pressure on. Not necessarily trapping on every possession, but the cumulative effect of having someone that is athletic in your face, wearing you down.”
When the coach and his two veteran guards spoke to the media there were four practices remaining before they put the new look on display. While Wright is anxious to impress the fan base, the veteran floor leader knows there is still plenty of work to be done.
'We have to make sure we are ready first before we show the people,” said Wright. “You can’t go out there and then everybody is like ‘no, we don’t like that.’ We have to make sure that we fine tune everything, that everybody is in the right places, and that everybody knows the positions. We have to make sure that we are right for when people actually do see us. We have a short amount of time.”
With how hard this group has already worked to date, it is safe to assume they will get things in order before Monday night. Having a guy like Parker setting the example for what toughness and hard work is all about is certainly a big part of the equation.
“This year we just have kind of taken a new approach,” said Parker. “Everybody is just hungry. Everybody wants to just go out there and just play their hardest and try to get a win.”
Clearly there is no question Cronin and his squad are ready to get the ball bouncing, and the coach feels the fan base is chomping at the bit as well.
“I think our fans are excited if I got a gauge for how things are and they should be about our season,” Cronin said. “If you are not busy Monday, you are going to have fun watching us play.”
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